'My son has been in pain for three years, now he faces a further 30-week wait for ear surgery'
The mother of a five-year-old Belfast boy who has lived with excruciating ear pain for three years has said she is disgusted he will have to wait at least another 30 weeks for surgery.
Sharon Stitt from the Lower Braniel Road told the Belfast Telegraph her son Patrick had been in and out of hospital constantly since 2014 with ear infections, which were ruining his quality of life.
She has now been told he is on a 30-week waiting list for ear surgery, meaning he will soon have lived in discomfort for nearly four years.
"He's such a lovely wee boy, but at nights he can't sleep properly," she said.
"If we're outside and there was any noise from ambulance or police patrols he just blocks his ears and holds on to me in fear.
"We went into McDonald's once and a tray dropped and the noise of even that made him go crazy.
"I've seen him in the house holding his ears and banging his head against the wall in distress."
The P2 pupil at Leadhill Primary School in Castlereagh is awaiting an operation for stent implants, which regulate the pressure inside the ear.
Even then, it's uncertain this will solve the problem.
Mrs Stitt said her son also struggled to hear his teacher in class, wears ear muffs in the playground and can't take part in activities like swimming.
"To leave a child like that for three years, and then to tell him he has to wait almost another year for help is disgraceful," she said.
"It's hurt me quite a bit as a mother, I just can't take it anymore.
"I've complained to everyone about it, health visitors, MLAs, I need to be heard.
"What do you do as a mother when your child is in chronic poor health and nothing is being done?"
Patrick's father David Stitt added: "I feel like we're being fobbed off by the Health Trust, I know what my son has gone through."
A spokesperson for the Belfast Health Trust said: "The waiting time for paediatric ear surgery is currently around 30 weeks.
"We continue to support this family as much as possible to get the best outcome for their little boy."
In February, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said surgery waiting times in Northern Ireland were "spiralling out of control". The RCS said at the time: "We cannot forget that behind these statistics are potentially very ill and anxious patients who are being made to wait too long for surgery."